It was hyped as the biggest non-league game in the last decade in Jake Maberry Gymnasium, and when it was over, it was the Lynden boys who earned a big 70-47 win against the big boys of O’Dea of Seattle on Saturday, Dec. 22.
Not to be outdone, the Lynden girls had a big game of their own in the evening’s opener, beating Bellevue, 59-47.
Scheduling schools that are in higher classifications is nothing new for the Lynden boys. Already this year, they have played (and beaten) 4A Eastlake and 3A Marysville-Pilchuck.
Check out more pictures from the Lynden boys and girls games on our www.whatcomhoops.com Facebook page.
But 3A O’Dea from the powerful Seattle Metro League was supposed to be different. The Fighting Irish had just lost to Rainier Beach by 3 earlier in the week, the same Rainier Beach that was ranked in the top 20 in the nation by USA Today.
With 6-foot-9 Paolo Banchero, considered the state’s best sophomore, O’Dea was favored to make short work (no pun intended) of the Lions. But Banchero finished with only two field goals, Lynden’s Clayton Whitman had 30 points and the game’s only dunk, and Christian Zamora added 23 as the Lions led from tip-off to final buzzer.
“Clearly our guys brought their A game,” said Lynden boys coach Brian Roper, whose Lions are the defending 2A state champions. “We schedule (good teams) to have nights like this. This is why a lot of teams don’t want to come up here.”
The Lynden girls were just as inhospitable to 3A Bellevue. Ruby VanderHaak bombed in seven 3-pointers to lead the way with 25 points, and Keylie Hershey tossed in another 12 for the Lions.
And like the Lynden boys, the girls don’t mind tackling the Goliaths. They’ll face 4A Puyallup in a holiday tournament next week and could face 3A Ballard of Seattle and 3A Eastside Catholic of Sammamish in the same tournament.
“I tell them to look at the (state championship) banners,” said Lynden girls coach Rob Adams. “Our first (state championship) team lost four games; two years ago we lost six (and won state).
“It doesn’t matter if we go undefeated during the season. We want to go 7-0 in our last seven games (district and state).”
Lynden is not alone in the county when it comes to scheduling bigger schools. On the same night the Lions had their big games, cross-town rival Lynden Christian had a big night in the ShoWare Shootout in Kent. The 1A Lyncs handed the 3A Wilson of Tacoma boys their first defeat, and the LC girls knocked off 4A Todd Beamer of Federal Way.
In fact, many of the Whatcom County schools victories over bigger schools on their resumes. The 2A Blaine boys beat 3A Oak Harbor, the 2A Sehome boys beat 3A Marysville-Getchell, and the 2A Mount Baker girls beat 3A Chief Sealth.
And, of course, in the Northwest Conference the 1A and 2A schools regularly face 3A Ferndale and Squalicum, which may explain why the smaller schools often do so well against their peers in the playoffs.
“It isn’t about the RPI,” said Adams about the formula the state uses to rank teams. “We want to play a wide range of teams … fast teams like us and teams that are going to knock us around.”
Roper agreed: “We’re not worried about our record or about losing. You can learn a lot about your team (playing bigger schools).”
Of course it doesn’t hurt when you learn that your team can play with the best in the state, regardless of classification.
“This is a great memory,” he said of the victory over O’Dea. “They’ll remember it when they are grandpas like me.”